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Law and the Quest for Gender Equality »

Authored by: Margaret Thornton
Publication date: 2022
As law was a means of legitimating the subordination of women and their exclusion from the public sphere for centuries, it cannot be expected to become a source of equality instantaneously without resistance from benchmark men, that is, those who are white, heterosexual, able-bodied and middle class. Equality, furthermore, was attainable only in the public sphere, whereas the private sphere was marked as a site of inequality; a wife, children and servants could never be the equals of the master. Despite ambivalence about the role of law and its contradictions, women and Others nevertheless felt that they had no alternative but to look to law as a means of liberation. This skewed patriarchal heritage has continued to impede the quest for equality by women and Others and is the subtext of this collection of essays. It informs not only gender relations in the private sphere, as illustrated by domestic violence and sexual assault, but also the status of women in the public sphere. Despite the fact that women have entered the paid workforce, including the professions in large numbers, they are still expected to assume responsibility for the preponderance of society’s caring. The essays show how maternal and caring roles, which are still largely viewed as belonging to an unregulated private sphere, continue to be invoked to detract from the authority of the feminine in the public sphere. The promise of anti-discrimination legislation in overcoming the heritage of the past is also shown to be somewhat hollow.

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Lilith: A Feminist History Journal: Number 28 »

Publication date: 2022
New research in this issue of Lilith includes studies of feminist vegetarian activism in Victorian England; the lives of Japanese businesswomen in North Queensland before 1941; negotiations of gender amongst women combatants in Tigray, Ethiopia; and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on women. Each of the four research articles draws upon new sources and interpretations that shed light on the varied experiences of women within and beyond Australia, often challenging established norms or assumptions about progress. In ‘Vegetarians, Vivisection and Violationism’, Ruby Ekkel explores the centrality of vegetarianism to the activities and lived experience of noted Victorian activist Anna Kingsford. Tianna Killoran’s article ‘Sex, soap and silk’ draws on newly accessible sources in moving beyond traditional narratives that characterise Japanese women in interwar North Queensland as impoverished sex workers. In ‘A Soldier and a Woman’, Francesca Baldwin examines how women combatants in Tigray, Ethiopia, negotiated the connections and collisions between soldiering and womanhood during and after the 1974–91 civil war. Petra Brown and Tamara Kayali Browne’s article ‘Relational Autonomy: Addressing the Vulnerabilities of Women in a Global Pandemic’ explores how the individualistic/atomistic model of autonomy in responses to Covid-19 has disproportionately disadvantaged women. This issue also contains nine short essay responses from experienced gender scholars—including Ann Curthoys, Sharon Crozier-De Rosa, Catherine Kevin, Ann McGrath, Janet Ramsey, Yves Rees, Madeleine C. Seys, Jordana Silverstein, and Zora Simic—to the question ‘What does it mean to do feminism in 2022?’ These essays reveal the political power of feminist history-making, since, as Ann Curthoys argues in her essay, feminist history is itself a form of activism. Taken together, these research articles and essays, along with the editorial, demonstrate the fallibility of the notion of history being a narrative of linear progress without relevance to our current reality. They urge against political complacency about the Covid-19 pandemic, colonialism or women's oppression as existing only in the past.

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Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society »

Women’s lives in the Wahgi Valley

Authored by: Marie Olive Reay
Publication date: January 2022
Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society brings to the reader anthropologist Marie Reay’s field research from the 1950s and 1960s on women’s lives in the Wahgi Valley, Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Dramatically written, each chapter adds to the main story that Reay wanted to tell, contrasting young girls’ freedom to court and choose partners, with the constraints (and violence) they were to experience as married women. This volume provides readable ethnographic material for undergraduate courses, in whole or in part. It will be of interest to students and scholars of gender relations, anthropology and feminism, Melanesia and the Pacific. The material in this book, which Reay had written by 1965 but never published, remains startlingly contemporary and relevant. Marie Olive Reay was a social anthropologist who did research in Australian Indigenous communities and in the Wahgi Valley in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Employed at The Australian National University from 1959 to 1988 when she retired, Reay passed away in 2004. In 2011 this manuscript was found in her personal papers, reconstructed and edited by Francesca Merlan, augmented here by an additional introduction by eminent anthropologist of the Highlands, and of gender, Marilyn Strathern. Had this manuscript appeared when Reay apparently completed it in its present form – around 1965 – it would have been the first published ethnography of women’s lives in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Its retrieval from Reay’s papers, and availability now, adds a new dimension to works on gender relations in Melanesian societies, and to the history of Australian and Pacific anthropology.
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Lilith: A Feminist History Journal: Number 27 »

Publication date: December 2021
This year’s issue covers a rich variety of topics in feminist history, including: the role of place and space in feminist and lesbian identity-making in 1970s’ Melbourne; a decolonising approach to writing the history of women and children in Alice Springs; the importance of recipe exchange in kinship networks in seventeenth-century Ireland; an examination of the life of twentieth-century poet’s muse Katie Anna Lush; the political theatre employed by the Australian Women’s Movement Against Socialism in the 1940s; the targeting of wine advertisements at Australian women in the 1950s and 1960s; and an exploration of the processes of power within natural history societies in nineteenth-century South Australia. There are also two articles that form a special section on the topic of the female frame, one on the role of uniforms for women workers in the transport industry, and the other comparing archetypes of the infanticidal mother in fin-de-siècle Australian and France.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 6, Issue 2, 2021 »

Publication date: December 2021
Since its announcement in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become the main lens through which both observers and stakeholders trace China’s global footprint. Whether cheered on as a new engine of economic development in a fraught and increasingly unequal world or frowned on as a masterplan through which the Chinese authorities are attempting to establish global hegemony, the infrastructure component of the BRI has become such an important frame in discussions of Global China that less tangible aspects that are not in its purview tend to be lost or overlooked. One of these neglected dimensions is China’s long history of international engagement aimed at building economic, political, social, and cultural ties in both the Global North and the Global South. Frequently, we tend to forget how the international presence of Chinese actors we are currently observing did not just happen overnight, but was built on decades of experience of China’s interaction with the rest of the world. In the belief that examining these historical precedents can help us shed light on both the continuities and the discontinuities in the practices of today and that only by digging into the dirt of history can we excavate the roots of the dynamics we are witnessing, this issue is dedicated to the ‘archaeologies of the BRI’.
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Sound Citizens »

Australian Women Broadcasters Claim their Voice, 1923–1956

Authored by: Catherine Fisher
Publication date: June 2021
In 1954 Dame Enid Lyons, the first woman elected to the Australian House of Representatives, argued that radio had ‘created a bigger revolution in the life of a woman than anything that has happened any time’ as it brought the public sphere into the home and women into the public sphere. Taking this claim as its starting point, Sound Citizens examines how a cohort of professional women broadcasters, activists and politicians used radio to contribute to the public sphere and improve women’s status in Australia from the introduction of radio in 1923 until the introduction of television in 1956. This book reveals a much broader and more complex history of women’s contributions to Australian broadcasting than has been previously acknowledged. Using a rich archive of radio magazines, station archives, scripts, personal papers and surviving recordings, Sound Citizens traces how women broadcasters used radio as a tool for their advocacy; radio’s significance to the history of women’s advancement; and how broadcasting was used in the development of women’s citizenship in Australia. It argues that women broadcasters saw radio as a medium that had the potential to transform women’s lives and status in society, and that they worked to both claim their own voices in the public sphere and to encourage other women to become active citizens. Radio provided a platform for women to contribute to public discourse and normalised the presence of women’s voices in the public sphere, both literally and figuratively.
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Unequal Lives »

Gender, Race and Class in the Western Pacific

Publication date: January 2021
As we move further into the twenty-first century, we are witnessing both the global extensification and local intensification of inequality. Unequal Lives deals with the particular dilemmas of inequality in the Western Pacific. The authors focus on four dimensions of inequality: the familiar triad of gender, race and class, and the often-neglected dimension of generation. Grounded in meticulous long-term ethnographic enquiry and deep awareness of the historical contingency of these configurations of inequality, this volume illustrates the multidimensional, multiscale and epistemic nature of contemporary inequality. This collection is a major contribution to academic and political debates about the perverse effects of inequality, which now ranks among the greatest challenges of our time. The inspiration for this volume derives from the breadth and depth of Martha Macintyre’s remarkable scholarship. The contributors celebrate Macintyre’s groundbreaking work, which exemplifies the explanatory power, ethical force and pragmatism that ensures the relevance of anthropological research to the lives of others and to understanding the global condition. ‘Unequal Lives is an impressive collection by Melanesianist anthropologists with reputations for theoretical sophistication, ethnographic imagination and persuasive writing. It brilliantly illuminates all aspects of the multifaceted scholarship of Martha Macintyre, whose life and teaching are also highlighted in the commentaries, tributes and interview included in the volume.’ — Robert J. Foster, Professor of Anthropology and Visual and Cultural Studies, Richard L. Turner Professor of Humanities, University of Rochester ‘Inspired by Martha Macintyre’s work, the contributors to Unequal Lives show that to theorise inequality is a measured project, one that requires rescaling its exercise over several decades in order to recognise the reality of inequality as it is known in social relations and to document it critically, unravelling their own readiness to misjudge what they see from the lives that are lived by the people with whom they have lived and studied. This fine volume shows how the ordinariness of everyday work and care can be a chimera wherein the apparent reality of inequality might mislead less critical reports to obscure its very account. From reading it, we learn that such unrelenting questioning of what makes lives unequal becomes the very analytic for better understanding lives as they are lived.’ — Karen M. Sykes, Professor of Anthropology, University of Manchester
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Lilith: A Feminist History Journal: Number 26 »

Publication date: October 2020
The 2020 issue of Lilith features research on a range of feminist history topics, including an exploration of the performativity of temperance activist Bessie Harrison Lee; a critique of how colonial women are represented in Australian museums; a discussion of representations of motherhood in digital archives; a reconceptualisation of the radical nature of women’s political history; an investigation of the role that dress played in encouraging community acceptance of early women preachers in Australia; an inquiry into how fat bodies became a site of resistance of gender norms among rural women in interwar Western Australia; a study of women’s presence on plantations in colonial north Queensland; a survey of ‘moral treatment’ of puerperal insanity among female patients at Fremantle Lunatic Asylum; and an analysis of the coercion of women into domestic service in interwar Britain.
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Australia’s Fertility Transition »

A study of 19th-century Tasmania

Authored by: Helen Moyle
Publication date: February 2020
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most countries in Europe and English-speaking countries outside Europe experienced a fertility transition, where fertility fell from high levels to relatively low levels. England and the other English-speaking countries experienced this from the 1870s, while fertility in Australia began to fall in the 1880s. This book investigates the fertility transition in Tasmania, the second settled colony of Australia, using both statistical evidence and historical sources. The book examines detailed evidence from the 1904 New South Wales Royal Commission into the Fall in the Birth Rate, which the Commissioners regarded as applying not only to NSW, but to every state in Australia. Many theories have been proposed as to why fertility declined at this time: theories of economic and social development; economic theories; diffusion theories; the spread of secularisation; increased availability of artificial methods of contraception; and changes in the rates of infant and child mortality. The role of women in the fertility transition has generally been ignored. The investigation concludes that fertility declined in Tasmania in the late 19th century in a period of remarkable social and economic transformation, with industrialisation, urbanisation, improvements in transport and communication, increasing levels of education and opportunities for social mobility. One of the major social changes was in the status and role of women, who became the driving force behind the fertility decline.
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Everyday Revolutions »

Remaking Gender, Sexuality and Culture in 1970s Australia

Publication date: August 2019
The 1970s was a decade when matters previously considered private and personal became public and political. These shifts not only transformed Australian politics, they engendered far-reaching cultural and social changes. Feminists challenged ‘man-made’ norms and sought to recover lost histories of female achievement and cultural endeavour. They made films, picked up spanners and established printing presses. The notion that ‘the personal was political’ began to transform long-held ideas about masculinity and femininity, both in public and private life. In the spaces between official discourses and everyday experience, many sought to revolutionise the lives of Australian men and women. Everyday Revolutions brings together new research on the cultural and social impact of the feminist and sexual revolutions of the 1970s in Australia. Gay Liberation and Women’s Liberation movements erupted, challenging almost every aspect of Australian life. The pill became widely available and sexuality was both celebrated and flaunted. Campaigns to decriminalise abortion and homosexuality emerged across the country. Activists set up women’s refuges, rape crisis centres and counselling services. Governments responded to new demands for representation and rights, appointing women’s advisors and funding new services. Everyday Revolutions is unique in its focus not on the activist or legislative achievements of the women’s and gay and lesbian movements, but on their cultural and social dimensions. It is a diverse and rich collection of essays that reminds us that women’s and gay liberation were revolutionary movements.
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